A new report shows the importance of counselling to assist people out of homelessness

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A new report by London-based charity Evolve Housing + Support highlights the vital role counselling plays in assisting people out of homelessness.

‘Breaking the Cycle of Trauma’

The report, entitled Breaking the Cycle of Trauma, demonstrates [pdf, p9] the strong correlation between trauma and homelessness. The researchers interviewed [pdf, p6] 156 participants. They found [pdf, p8] that “79% of respondents reported experiencing at least one childhood trauma while they were under 18 years old”. 29% of respondents stated [pdf, p9] that childhood trauma was the primary reason behind their homelessness.

The research also found that becoming homeless only serves to increase the likelihood of traumatic incidents. 55% of respondents reported [pdf, p14] “experiencing 3 or more traumas since becoming homeless”. And 27% of female participants stated [pdf, p15] they had suffered physical abuse whilst being homeless.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that [pdf, p16] “87% of customers reported a mental health concern or diagnosis”. The report states [pdf, p16]:

While the unsettling nature of experiencing homelessness may automatically increase a person’s depression and anxiety, the additional factors reported by all ages and sexes, demonstrate that the more traumas a person experiences, the more likely their mental health will be affected.

The importance of counselling

The findings of the report have prompted Evolve Housing + Support to call for more counselling services to assist people out of homelessness. In a press release seen by The Canary, the charity’s director of operations, Debra Ives, stated:

Our research shows just how closely experiences of trauma, especially in childhood, are linked to a higher risk of poor mental health and homelessness later in life. We must remember that homelessness itself is traumatic and that problems get worse and more complex the longer people go without help.

Counselling is one of the best tools for dealing with trauma but it must be available quickly to have an impact.

The case studies in the report corroborate Ives’ belief.

Lizzie, who had experienced [pdf, p8] physical and emotional abuse as a child, reported feelings of anxiety and depression as well as having an eating disorder and alcohol and drug issues. But by the end of her sessions [pdf, p8]:

Lizzie had learned coping strategies for her feelings of depression and anxiety, and had started to leave her room more often. She felt more positive about the future and was engaging with support for her eating disorder. Lizzie has now moved out of supported accommodation and is living independently. She has reduced her alcohol and cannabis use and has enrolled on a college course.

Filling the gap

Evolve Housing + Support currently offers counselling services across London which are “in-house, free and non-location specific”. But, funding for the service is being cut in September meaning the charity is looking to raise £110,000 to continue running it.

Research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that mental health trusts in England received £105m less in real terms in 2016-2017 than in 2011-2012. And the British Medical Association has warned that some people with serious mental health issues are having to wait two years to receive specialist support through the NHS.

Ives described the importance of charities such as Evolve Housing + Support being able to fill in this gap:

When local authority budgets are so stretched and NHS waiting times so long, we are going to miss opportunities to help people if we’re not able to provide services ourselves.

You can support Evolve Housing + Support’s fundraising effort here.

Featured image via GarryKnight/Flickr

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